Johannesburg - I’ll admit it, when thinking about which South African cities have the most natural beauty, Jozi isn’t exactly at the top of the list. I won’t argue about the fact that Cape Town is in-your-face beautiful, but Jozi is pretty in its own right – we just need to know where to look. Hike up the Westcliff stairs and admire the view, or take a drive through the jacaranda-lined streets of Parkview and Greenside.
If that’s not good enough, a weekend spent in the Hartbeespoort and Pilanesberg area will make you feel as though you’ve spent a week in the countryside.
I recommend driving through to Harties on a Saturday morning and enjoying the day there. Then take an easy drive through to Pilanesberg, and catch an evening game drive before you spend the night at one of the many lodges in the area.
On Sunday, cool off at the Valley of Waves at Sun City before heading home – you’ll be back in the early afternoon, allowing you some rest ahead of the week to come.
What to do:
Go up the Harties Cableway
Recently revamped, this state- of-the-art cableway has 14 hi-tech cable cars, giving visitors a bird’s eye view of the Hartbeespoort Dam and surrounds. You can purchase a picnic basket to enjoy once you get to the top of the mountain, stroll along the 1km Dassie Loop walkway or just relax and enjoy the scenery around you.
Tickets are priced at R160 for adults at R90 for kids and the cableway is open seven days a week. Visit www.hartiescableway.co.za
Visit the Elephant or Monkey Sanctuary
Situated adjacent to one another, these sanctuaries provide an interactive and educational experience. At the elephant sanctuary, you can walk trunk-in-hand with African elephants, see where they sleep at night and feed them. The Bush Babies monkey sanctuary is one of only eight free-release primate sanctuaries globally, where the goal is to provide the opportunity for primates to live as they would in the wild. Join the guides on an intimate walk through natural indigenous forests on elevated wooden walkways and encounter a variety of exotic monkeys along the way.
Visitwww.elephantsanctuary.co.za and www.monkeysanctuary. co.za
Where to eat:
Silver Orange Bistro
This country-style bistro, situated on a citrus farm in Hartebeespoort, is an absolute gem – in terms of both food and surroundings. Offering contemporary South African cuisine with a menu that changes frequently, dishes are unusual but refreshingly uncomplicated. Try the duck and fig samoosas or the seared tuna tataki to start, and the grilled sole or slow-braised springbok shank for mains.
Make sure to save some space for dessert. The frozen peanut butter fudge ice cream bar is to die for (it’s so good, that it’s been on the menu for the past seven years.)
Call 082 378 2948. Visit www.silverorangebistro.co.za
Where to stay:
Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge
One doesn’t need to drive all the way to the Kruger to see the Big Five. Pilanesberg Game Reserve is pleasantly accessible for Joburgers, and has a variety of accommodation options – my favourite being Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge. The nightly accommodation rate includes two game drives a day, high tea and all meals, with the family suites (two rooms adjoined with a lounge and kitchen area) being particularly convenient if you’re travelling with kids. The rooms are modern, luxurious and come standard with an outdoor shower, Charlotte Rhys amenities, his and hers basins, oversized Victorian bathtub and a large patio with a gorgeous view of the surrounding reserve.
There’s lots to do at the lodge itself, whether it’s relaxation or adventure you’re after. Lounge around the pool area over cocktails, have a treatment at the in house Amani spa, go on a guided bush walk or try out quad biking.
Dinner is served in the lodge’s gourmet restaurant, where you can expect classic dishes like Caesar salad or hearty butternut soup to start, along with a wide selection of dishes for mains, the main feature being meaty grills. The lodge is also equipped with a conference centre, which looks out on to a boma – great for teambuilding events.
l Hasmita was hosted by Shepherd’s Tree for the purposes of this article.
l For more ideas of things to do in and around Jozi, visit Hasmita’s blog: www.joziliciousblog.co.za - Hasmita Nair, Sunday Independent